Windows 8. A good direction for Microsoft

It’s been a few weeks now since the release of Windows 8 and there have been many articles discussing its merits and failings.

The general view was that Windows 8 makes a good job of bridging the gap between device types so that moving from device to device is more consistent than on earlier releases and their use of the SkyDrive although following the iCloud of Apple is well thought through.

So I asked our designers for a few comments about the interface.The METRO UI is very different from Apple & Google and is more of a native digital interface than iOS & Android. There is hardly any skeuomorphism in their UI. What do we mean by that?

Fast Company’s Austin Carr put it well when he said “If you’ve ever used an Apple product, you’ve experienced digital skeuomorphic design: calendars with faux leather-stitching, bookshelves with wood veneers, fake glass and paper and brushed chrome. Skeuomorphism is a catch-all term for when objects retain ornamental elements of past, derivative iterations–elements that are no longer necessary to the current objects’ functions. iCal’s leather-stitching was based on a texture in Jobs’s Gulfstream jet.”  To new uses not used to these metaphors the embellishments are simply confusing.

These leftovers from earlier designs and ideas aren’t good for software as they impose unnecessary and often irrelevant designs on what should be a clean slate for the designer. Microsoft took a surprisingly refreshing approach with Windows 8, distancing itself from skeuomorphism while emphasizing a flat user interface that’s minimalist to the core. Sure, real-life visual metaphors still exist in the UI–an envelope to represent the mail app, a camera to denote the photo app– but the icons are without embellishments: no bevel, no 3-D flourishes, no glossiness and no drop shadow. It’s Microsoft’s stripped-down UI that many find appealing–a welcome alternative to Apple’s approach to software design.

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